The Tyranny of Potential

No longer indentured to conformity by the fear of failure, I suspect I may finally be reaching my potential and it looks nothing like I expected it to.

In year-seven Derek Shankhill had it so easy. He was dyslexic, had one leg longer than the other and was legally blind. He lived in government housing with a single mother, an incalculable menagerie of cats and seven louse-infected siblings. No one expected anything of Derek Shankhill and consequently his youth was blissfully unhampered by the tyranny of potential.

Some of us will wait decades to taste the sweet freedom in which Derek Shankhill reveled. You see, unlike my classmate, Derek, I was woefully burdened with the privileges afforded one born of healthy, well-educated, middle-class parents: Three square meals a day, my own bedroom and all the Osmond Family L.Ps my pocket money could stretch to.

At school I displayed a precocious flair for English, performed solos in the school choir and held my own on the soccer field. My childhood possessed all the material prerequisites for a future of success and general awesomeness.

The inescapable downside of being given a good start in life is that you are then expected to single-handedly build an even better middle and end. And there is no surer way to transform a virile, upstanding youth into a flaccid has-been than the bone-crushing weight of expectation.

Wait!…Don’t leave!…There is good news coming. Because if one can survive the gauntlet of dodgy choices, failed ventures and missed opportunities long enough, one will eventually reach the green pastures of middle age, at which point one will have either fulfilled one’s cursed potential or resigned to the possibility that one never will. Either way, the pressure’s off.

There is something refreshingly liberating about reaching an age at which one has become largely invisible to the public gaze, no longer the object of curiosity and intrigue. For the first time one is free to embark on daring adventures and take foolish risks, in the assurance that practically no one is watching.

No longer indentured to conformity by the fear of failure, I suspect I may finally be reaching my potential and it looks nothing like I expected it to.

I am learning to wear purple, sit still for long periods, eat exotic food, cry more, worry less, write silly blog-posts, laugh at myself, ride a unicycle, tell people I love them, let go…Let go…Let go.

I recently rediscovered Derek Shankhill on Facebook. He is the CEO of a Charity that supports visually impaired children. Derek basks in the love and support of a devoted wife, three well-balanced children and…just one cat.

What on earth might have become of Derek Shankhill had he been given a ‘better start in life’.

0 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Potential”

  1. Great post Chris. I heard someone say that today.
    Growing up, teachers told me I had potential and boy did I have to fight to get where I am today.
    I like being determined 🙂

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